Archive for March, 2009

A Day in Santiago – day 5 of the Camino Ingles

March 21, 2009

We woke refreshed and prepared to uncover the charms of the cathedral. Fortunately our first view from the Plaza de Platerias were the romanesque portals which take us back to the days when the cathedral stonework was the primary means of telling the story of God’s ongoing relationship with his people.

Christ in Majesty

Christ in Majesty

David playing his ?harp?

David playing his ?harp?

God creating Adam

God creating Adam

The tympanum on the right ...

The tympanum on the right ...

and the one on the left...

and the one on the left...

Thus fortified by this reminder of the familiar (from the Via Lemovicencis or the Voie de Vezalay) I approached the baroque west front in a more positive frame of mind!

If you look hard, Peter is standing on his own on the right hand side

If you look hard, Peter is standing on his own on the right hand side

St James and his clones (oops I mean disciples Theodore and Anastasius) are placed in state on the Obradoiro facade

St James and his clones (oops I mean disciples Theodore and Anastasius) are placed in state on the Obradoiro facade

Looking left at the Hostal de los Reyes Catolicos,now a swanky hotel

Looking left at the Hostal de los Reyes Catolicos,now a swanky hotel

And looking right

And looking right.

We followed JW’s advice, again, from the guide, and took our seats for the noon Pilgrim’s Mass at about 11, after buying a guidebook for the cathedral. We used our pew as a base camp for exploratory forays until the singing practice for the service began. I set off to find the Puerta Sancta on the Plaza de la Quintana, which is only opened during Holy Years.

The 17th century facade for the Holy Door has medieval apostles and prophets carved by Master Mateo.on either side, and baroque James, Anastasius and Theodore above.

The 17th century facade for the Holy Door has medieval apostles and prophets carved by Master Mateo on either side, and baroque James, Anastasius and Theodore above.

each of the characters ether side of the door has their own personality...

each of the characters either side of the door has their own personality...

individual posture...

individual posture...

and own style of dress.

and own style of dress.

I peered through the locked gate and found the earlier cathedral and the actual Holy Door.

I peered through the locked gate and found the earlier cathedral and the actual Holy Door.

with it's round arches, columns and carved capitals.

with its round arches, columns and carved capitals.

Back inside the cathedral we were struck by the symmetrical double organ(s?) with its three dimensional ranks of pipes and its cherubs perched in copious curlicues.

Vertical and horizontal organ pipes

Vertical and horizontal organ pipes

view of right hand organ from under the left hand one!

view of right hand organ from under the left hand one!

I think these cherubim must have been alive because every single photo is blurred!

I think these cherubim must have been alive because every single photo is blurred!

The incredibly over the top golden canopy which is supported by four enormously out of proportion angels was shoe-horned into the romanesque chancel in the 15th and 16th centuries is almost impossible to look at, let alone take a photo of.

This is as close as I came to taking a picture of the canopy, as a background to the octagonal lantern over the crossing.

This is as close as I came to taking a picture of the canopy, as a background to the octagonal lantern over the crossing.

The guide book tells me that St James sits in three places in the chancel – as the Apostle who we had climbed behind and hugged over his  glass-jewel encrusted shiny golden mantle the day before, then, higher up, St James the Pilgrim or missionary, and highest of all, St James the Warrior (or Moorslayer). When I returned from one of my solitary photography expeditions, Peter and Kate remarked that Christ was missing, as far as they could see, from the chancel and high altar. (Presumably he was on a crucufix on the altar itself, but not noticeable from a distance.) We went silent, not wanting to be puritanical protestants, and tried to understand the catholic tradition of finding the way to Christ through the saints.  Later we found Santiago Matamoros in the south transept, seated on his white horse rearing over a huge arrangement of white flowers.

James the flower-slayer, safely behind bars

James the flower-slayer, safely behind bars

Of course, I knew what I would find if I looked carefully, and I stuck the camera through the bars

A moor perishes under James the warrior

A moor perishes under James the warrior

The thought crossed my mind that, perhaps, here was Christ, identifying with the suffering of the world as always.  As always the powerful appropriated the the position of the right and just, and now we are left in the uncomfortable situation of living with the consequences. Of course, it’s not just the catholic church that has these embarrassments of history to deal with; none of us can cast the first stone.

Anyway, at noon was the Pilgrim’s mass. I concentrated hard, but could not pick up enough of the works to join in the singing, even though we were coached by the sister with the pretty voice. I did manage to pick out the mention of our friends from Ireland and Australia and their pilgrimage from Ferrol. (As we had only walked from A Corunha, we only got a stamp each from the Pilgrim’s Office, not a compostela, so I expect the same rule applies to the mention at the Mass). We followed the service as best we could, but it would have been easier with a service book. Still, attention wandered and I played spot the walking pilgrim (as opposed the the coachloads of confirmation candidates) among the congregation. Across the aisle was a tousled haired weatherbeaten woman who kept one foot up on her backpack throughout the service and did not go up to receive communion. I spoke to her aftewards, she told me she had indeen walked from Roncesvalles, and was off to find a doctor for her poorly foot!

Our post-exertion tiredness had struck by now, so after some searching for spanish language children’s books (its a family tradition to return from foreign parts with books for the adults to pretend to translate  to the children), and a quick lunch snack, Peter and I went to sleep for a while!

We met up with Kate later at the cathedral to do a bit more exploring:

The portal to the Corticela Chapel

The portal to the Corticela Chapel

Detail of the Portal - the magi

Detail of the Portal - the magi

this is the sort of carving (on a tomb in the Corticela) which I love to find

this is the sort of really old carving (on a tomb in the Corticela) which I love to find

on the other hand, this modern font cover also pleases!

on the other hand, this modern font cover also pleases!

Detail of the font cover - I am assuming these are lamphreys?

Detail of the font cover - I am assuming these are lamphreys?

James' father, Zebedee

James' father, Zebedee

Zebedee reminded me how brightly painted church statues used to be

Zebedee reminded me how brightly painted church statues used to be

Master Mateo, it is thought, kneels at the base of the Portico de la Gloria, facing down the nave to the high altar.

Master Mateo, it is thought, kneels at the base of the Portico de la Gloria, facing down the nave to the high altar.

Mary sits above David and Solomon in the Jesse Tree.

Mary sits above David and Solomon in the Jesse Tree.

The Jesse Tree and Master Mateo were pretty much all we could see of the famous Portico de la Gloria, the rest being shrouded with scaffolding, boards and sheeting during restoration, in preparation for next year’s Holy Year. So that, along with all the cathedral museums, we have left until our next visit, when we will have completed our cycling pilgrimage all the way from home, via Holland, Belguim, France and northern Spain.

Instead, we set off to find the Museum of Pilgrimages, to which Kate had spotted signs. On the way I fell over my loosely laced walking boots, falling flat on the paving slabs in the Plaza da Immaculada and bruising my left knee and ankle. By this time I was coming down with a cold, and felt really quite ill, so I probably was not picking up my feet properly! Peter helped me up and I had a quiet weep propped up by a wall before struggling on.

I’m glad I did, though, because the museum of the pilgrimage was very interesting. And entry was free!  My memory seems rather vague now, three weeks later, but I was absorbed at the time, in spite of my bruises.

Cockleshell tiles in the museo das peregrinacions

Cockleshell tiles in the museo das peregrinacions

and more tiles. I LIKE tiles, and repeating patterns!

and more tiles. I LIKE tiles, and repeating patterns!

One display explained something about how the St.  James and Spain legend/history came about – I did not know the tradition  that the apostles divided up the known world between them, for example – and there were interesting old maps from early medieval times. Another room described pilgrims and their journeys from different periods.

Pilgrim's scrip - the ultimate lightweight pack - just enough room for a bank card, a pack of compeed and a mobile phone!!

Pilgrim's scrip - the ultimate lightweight pack - just enough room for a bank card, a pack of compeed and a mobile phone!!

We ended in a room of  St Jacques, James, Jacobs and Santiagos – painted, carved and metal worked. Here are a few:

'If James

'If James

and Jacques

and Jacques

and Iago bought a four-pack of yoghurts one day, how many would be left for the pilgrims that they met as they walked the Way?

and Iago bought a four-pack of yoghurts one day, how many would be left for the pilgrims that they met as they travelled the Way?

(Sorry, oblique reference to old rhyme in the Oxford Book of Nursery Rhymes about girls called Elizabeth, Betsy and Bess stealing eggs – it just came over me.)

PLeasant relief of the flight to Egypt seen on a building at a Santiago street corner

PLeasant relief of the flight to Egypt seen on a building at a Santiago street corner

Back to Hostel Suso where I took to my bed again. I was persuaded to get up for a meal, and we braved the distinctly un-touristy bar at the corner at the end of the Rua de Vilar further away from the cathedral. Its name was something like Nero or Negro, and it had an old fashioned list of platas or tapas on offer hung on a single hook beside its solid non-glass door. When we pushed it open we were greeted by somewhat surprised looks, as the clientele seemed to be all local and on bosom friends terms with the owners, bith of whom were of ample size and appetite. We tucked ourselves right at the back beside the chest freeze piled with old newspapers, a guitar and other stuff that anyone might have hanging about. We were served by the daughter of the establishment, who helped us understand the menu, and ate potatoes cooked in a tomato sauce, chick peas stewed with tripe and chorizo, cheese and anchovies, salad, slices of a shell fish pastry and deep fried polenta (?) on a stick, with red wine. We weren’t made to feel uncomfortable at all, but more and more regulars piled in and we were clearly taking up space, so when we asked if we could have cofee and tea, we were politely told it was not available. So we paid up and went back to bed!

The final picture: although these ladies were no use at all in helping us find the bus stop, we caught the airport bus on Sunday morning.We'll be back, Santiago!

The final picture: although these ladies were no use at all in helping us find the bus stop, we caught the airport bus on Sunday morning.We'll be back, Santiago!

"I thought that was the final picture?" "Couldn't understand a word, myself!"

"I thought that was the final picture?" "Couldn't understand a word, myself!"